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Midsize, Large Organizations Plan to Increase IT Spending on Sustainability, IBM Survey Finds

September 20, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

Nearly 90% of midsize and large organizations plan to increase their IT spending on sustainability over the next year, an IBM survey of global business leaders found. The biggest driver for IT spending on sustainability involves measuring, managing and reducing energy costs, the survey found.

Read between the lines: Technology partners that extend from IT toward carbon accounting, circular economy, renewable energy and green IT services could win favor with CIOs and chief sustainability officers, Sustainable Technology Partner believes. (Related: Why CIOs need sustainable technology partners.)

Still, the IBM survey results also found some areas of potential concern. For instance, there's a perception gap among corporate sustainability professionals, business leaders and IT leaders. The details: 93% of respondents think their company is somewhat or very mature in using data to track sustainability progress. But only 45% say they are ready to report on Scope 3 emissions, the survey found.

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM, involved global business leaders at companies with 1,000 or more employees. To qualify, participants had be an IT decision maker or a sustainability manager or higher.

IT Solutions for Sustainability: Signs of Progress?

Among the key survey findings:

  • 69% of surveyed business leaders say that at least half of their IT investments impact the organization’s sustainability.
  • C-level leaders are much more likely than lower-level roles to say that 75% to 99% of their IT investments have an impact on sustainability.
  • 62% of organizations already have a dedicated IT sustainability budget.
  • 38% of organizations plan to increase their IT sustainability budget "a lot more" over the next year.
  • 48% plan to increase their IT sustainability budgets "a little more" over the near year.
  • 12% expect to maintain the same level investment, and 2% expect to spend a little more over the next year.

Still, the results did not reveal actual dollar figures for the IT solutions and associated sustainability spending.

CIOs, CTOs and Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Selects IT Solutions for Sustainability?

CIOs and CTOs are most likely to be driving IT decisions for sustainability, but chief sustainability officers have a significant seat at the table, the IBM survey results found.

Within 38% of organizations, chief sustainability officers (CSOs) "play a role" in IT solutions for sustainability, and 21% of organizations point to CSOs as the primate IT solutions decision maker for sustainability.

IBM Survey: IT for Sustainability - Top Business Drivers

Organizations are investing in IT for sustainability to address energy costs (55%), environmentalism (50%), competitive differentiation (49%), public commitments (43%), regulatory pressure (42%), consumer pressure (41%) and employee activism (40%).

When spending on IT for sustainability, organizations point to three primary benefits: Lower energy use, minimize waste and improve accuracy of reporting, the IBM survey results found.

IBM Survey: IT for Sustainability - Biggest Investment Challenges

The top roadblocks for IT sustainability investments, IBM says, include:

  • Overall budget limits (41%)
  • Budget allocation challenges (39%)
  • Unaware of IT solutions and services that address challenges (22%)
  • No sustainability strategy or strategy still under development (18%)
  • No data or insights on path forward (18%)
  • Not a business priority (14%)

Still, 17% of organizations reported that their IT solutions for sustainability face no roadblocks.

Fortune 500 Businesses and Sustainability: Areas of Concern

Meanwhile, the number of Fortune Global 500 companies committed to 2050 net-zero goals has grown only 3% in 2023 compared to 2022, according to Climate Impact Partners' fifth-annual study. Moreover, no new companies announced 2030 net-zero targets in the past year, the research found.

With those data points in mind, the report asserts that in an "era of global boiling, Fortune Global 500 corporate commitments are starting to stall."

Technology Partners Needed: Still, environmental sustainability remains a Top 10 business priority for CEOs, according to Gartner. By 2026, 75% of organizations will increase their business engagement with IT vendors that have clear sustainability goals. As a result, CIOs will seek to replace vendors that don't have sustainability goals, according to Gartner.

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